The Disability Ministries mission is to encourage, facilitate, and nurture those who are disabled. In accordance with the mission, Disabilities Ministries is a service of the church that sensitizes its members to reach out to people with disabilities with the gospel, and to incorporate those individuals in all areas of church life. We’ve done that with the help of our congregation and others, to provide special attention to individuals with disabilities, and to develop witnessing programs/tools to ensure accessibility for those who are disabled.
We believe all people, including those with disabilities, are created in God’s image and have sacred worth. We believe that it is vital to the body of Christ to celebrate the spiritual gifts of people with disabilities and to incorporate them into the life of the church. Through advocacy, education, and empowerment, we strive to fully include people with disabilities in worship, missions, leadership and ministry.
The mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, is to reach all people within its assigned territory with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Individuals with disabilities, prior to COVID, were known to attend church at a much lower rate due to the barriers encountered. We have targeted removal of those barriers, to make our church more accessible.
Role of Disabilities Ministries
Challenge Moving Forward
In 2018, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) report revealed that one in four U.S. adults - 61 million - had a disability. 84% of this population claimed a faith tradition that is important to them. Yet, only 10% of faith communities perform any congregation-wide disabilities awareness. This was before the pandemic. Now in a time of digital worship, Bible studies and meetings, and being part of a faith community, can be more challenging for those living with a disability.
While in theory, technology provides a more accessible way to tune in to worship for some with disabilities, the theory falls short in practice for various reasons. Many people with disabilities cannot afford the tools they need to worship digitally, such as a computer, tablet or cell phone. Some who do can’t afford Internet service.
And then there are the shortcomings of the actual technology itself. People who are blind, for example, rely on good audio and links and websites that are accessible with a screen reader.
The need to connect is a spiritual need. So the church must continue to look at all alternatives for reaching persons w/disabilities.
We envision a world in which persons with disabilities have full access to community life and are valued as indispensable members of society. Together, we can work to build accessible communities and churches, end isolation among persons with disabilities, and create a world in which each and every one of us can thrive.Resources
Disabilities Ministries - Pioneers
How It Started
Dr. Rosa Maria Taylor Banks, employed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church since 1967, was called to the General Conference World Headquarters in 1989 to become the first female general field secretary and director of the Office of Human Relations. When the North American Division was created in 1990, her office was transferred to the Division, where she served for 16 years. During her tenure as director of Human Relations, she helped to create Women’s Ministries, Disabilities Ministries, the Dispute and Conciliation procedures, the Sexual Misconduct Policy, and nine other policies and guidelines of the Church that were voted in Annual Councils and year-end meetings.
Sis. Eunice Bailey and others were recruited by Dr. Banks, to birth what is now known as ‘Disabilities Ministries’ in the Church Manual (initially referred to as the ‘Commission for People with Disabilities’). Others who worked with Dr. Banks include Dr. Charlotte V. Thoms, Joan Bova, Catherine Burks, Rosemary Graham, Arturo Grayman, and Thompson Kay. For this trail-blazing effort, Dr. Banks created a Term of Reference for the disabilities initiative, along with a strategic vision and mission.
Our strategic plan goals:
A Disabilities Quick Start Guide and Disabilities Ministries Handbook produced by this team, continue to be used today, and are available in both English and Spanish.
Contributions of Sis. Eunice Bailey
Sis. Eunice Bailey served as the Disabilities Director around 1993 – 2019. Her years of service to the Conference, Union, and North American Division have ensured training and development for God’s people, and ADA compliance for our facilities.
The following individuals have supported Sis. Bailey in her years of service, and the following programs have been conducted: